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The CD is 25 Years Old

17 Aug 2007

Today 25 years ago, on August 17 1982, the world’s first compact disk was produced by Philips. Later that year the first CD player went on sale in Japan.

25 years is a long time in technology. In 1982 when the CD was introduced, there was no public internet and mobile phones had only just appeared. Computers had between 800KB and 5MB of storage and memory was below 1MB, making today’s standards a +1000-fold increase (Moore’s Law has been surprisingly accurate so far. The law states that the power of computers per unit cost doubles every two years, so we should now have computers ~4096 (2^12) times more powerful than in 1982). It was before the first Macintosh was introduced, so computers didn’t have a visual interface. It sure is a long time.

The introduction of the CD and huge success (Philips estimate that more than 200 billion CDs have been sold to date) marked the beginning of the transition from analog to digital technology. While the Laserdisc preceded the CD, it was much larger, used mainly for video and never gained widespread adoption. The success of the music CD paved the way for the CD-ROM, recordable CDs, DVDs and recently HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs. In a way, that beginning was also the beginning of the disruptive change that the creative industry is going through, with the music indutry in the front line. That the internet happened along the way only made change happen even faster.

The CD standard (known as “Red Book") was co-developed by Philips and Sony and I believe this joint effort contributed in no small amount to the success of the format. It stands as a great example of why open standards are a good thing.

Read Philip’s official press release.